Category Archives: Food & Drink

Mark Twain on New Year’s Day


“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drinks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”

Stop Killer Coke!

Carlos Castaño and members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group.

Death squads have assassinated eight trade union leaders in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. The Stop Killer Coke campaign holds the beverage giant responsible.


This article is from the November/December 2003 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

On the morning of December 5, 1996, two members of a paramilitary gang drove a motorcycle to the Carepa Coca-Cola bottling plant in northern Colombia. They fired 10 shots at worker and union activist Isidro Segundo Gil, killing him. Luis Adolso Cardona, a fellow worker, witnessed the assassination. “I was working and I heard the gun shots and then I saw Isidro Gil falling,” he said in a recent interview. “I ran, but when I got there Isidro was already dead.”

A few hours later, paramilitary officials detained Cardona, but he escaped, fleeing to the police office, where he received protection. Around midnight that night, the paramilitaries looted the local union office and set it on fire. “There was nothing left. Only the walls,” said Cardona. The paramilitary group returned to the plant the next week, lined up the 60 unionized workers, and ordered them to sign a prepared letter of resignation from the union. Everyone did. Two months later, all the workers—including those who had never belonged to the union—were fired.

Gil, 27, had worked at the plant for eight years. His wife, Alcira Gil, protested her husband’s killing and demanded reparations from Coca-Cola. She was killed by paramilitaries in 2000, leaving their two daughters orphaned. A Colombian judge later dropped the charges against Gil’s alleged killers.

Paramilitaries, violent right-wing forces composed of professional soldiers and common thugs, maintain bases at several Coca-Cola bottling facilities in Colombia, allegedly to protect the bottlers from left-wing militants who might target the plants as symbols of globalization.

Activists say at least eight union activists have been killed by paramilitaries at Colombian Coca-Cola facilities since 1989. And plaintiffs in a recent series of lawsuits hold Coca-Cola and two of its bottlers responsible for the violence, alleging “systematic intimidation, kidnapping, detention, and murder of trade unionists in Colombia, South America at the hands of paramilitaries working as agents of corporations doing business in that country.”

The murders of Coke bottling workers are part of a larger pattern of antiunion violence in Colombia. Since 1986, over 3,800 trade unionists have been murdered in the country, making it the most dangerous place to organize in the world. Three out of every five people killed worldwide for trade union activities are from Colombia.

Suing Coke and its Bottlers

The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the United Steel Workers of America filed four lawsuits in Federal District Court in July 2001 on behalf of Sinaltrainal (a union representing food and beverage workers in Colombia), five individuals who have been tortured or unlawfully detained for union activities, and the estate of murdered union activist Isidro Gil. The plaintiffs contend Coca-Cola bottlers “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained, or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.”

In addition to demanding that Coca-Cola take responsibility for the murder of Colombian union activists, the plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages, which by some estimates could range from $50 million to $6 billion.

Coca-Cola’s legal defense “is not that the murder and terrorism of trade unionists did not occur,” according to an ILRF press release. The company argues that it cannot be held liable in a U.S. federal court for events outside the United States. “Coca-Cola also argues that it does not ‘own,’ and therefore does not control, the bottling plants in Colombia.”

In late March, a judge dismissed Coca-Cola from the lawsuits—on grounds that the firm does not have control over the labor practices of its bottlers—but allowed the case against the bottlers to go forward. A request for an appeal is pending.

According to Daniel Kovalik, assistant general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America and co-counsel for the plaintiffs: “In the short run, [the court decision] means that we can’t proceed against Coke, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that in the long run. I am absolutely confident that we’ll win the appeal.”

Kovalik maintains that Coca-Cola is liable for its bottlers’ actions. For one thing, the 20 Colombia bottlers are deeply entwined in Coke’s core economic activities. Coca-Cola provides syrup to the bottlers, who mix, bottle, package, and ship the drinks to wholesalers and retailers throughout Colombia. The bottlers are integral to the beverage giant’s operations in the country.

Moreover, Coca-Cola and its bottlers have deep financial links. In May, Coca-Cola FEMSA, a bottling company, acquired Pan American Beverages, Latin America’s largest bottler and a defendant in the case. In the year before it was acquired, sales of Coca-Cola represented 89% of Pan American’s $2.35 billion net sales. The acquisition made Mexico-based Coca-Cola FEMSA the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America. The Coca-Cola Company owns a 30% equity stake in Coca-Cola FEMSA, according to the bottling company, and several of its executives also work for Coke.

The plaintiffs are now considering whether to add Coca-Cola FEMSA as a defendant in the lawsuits. If they do, Coca-Cola will be put in the uncomfortable position of trying to prove that Coca-Cola FEMSA and the Coca-Cola Company—despite their shared name, shared executives, and Coke’s part-ownership of FEMSA—are completely independent from one another.

Coca-Cola did not return calls for comment, but has stated in the past that Pan American Beverages was an independent company. More recently, Coca-Cola has denied allegations that its bottlers tolerate or assist in acts of violence against union activists. In a statement released in July, Coca-Cola said the allegations are “nothing more than a shameless effort to generate publicity using the name of our Company, its trademark and brands.”

Kovalik argues that the corporation’s communications with shareholders contradict these public statements and suggest that the firm in fact can, and should, investigate and put a stop to the killings. He plans to submit Coca-Cola documents as legal evidence, including a letter to a shareholder that reads: “We require that everyone within the Coca-Cola system abide by the laws and regulations of the countries in which they do business. We demand integrity and honesty in business at the Coca-Cola Company.…”

“They can’t be able to profit from these bottlers and say that they don’t have control over these situations,” says Kovalik.

Taking Down a Corporate Giant

The Stop Killer Coke campaign may prove to be the biggest test yet of the corporate campaign model pioneered by labor consultant Ray Rogers (see “Ray Rogers’ Corporate Campaign Strategy”). As the public face of the ILRF lawsuits, the Stop Killer Coke campaign aims to put public pressure on Coca-Cola to acknowledge its role in the killings and to persuade the company to stop collaborating with violent paramilitary organizations.

It’s one part of a massive coalition gearing up for a multi-front attack on Coca-Cola. The anti-Coke effort, launched by the lawsuits against Coca-Cola and its bottlers, has grown to include the Stop Killer Coke campaign, consumer and student groups, and labor organizations like the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. These various groups share the same primary goal: to damage the soft-drink giant’s reputation in order to force the company to acknowledge its role in the Colombian killings. With the launch of the Stop Killer Coke campaign this summer, the movement is picking up momentum.

Rogers plans to expand the campaign far beyond the plaintiffs’ allegations to encompass “at least a dozen issues” including the lack of health care for Coca-Cola workers in Africa; the corporation’s water use in India, which causes groundwater destruction; and more. He has spent the last several months researching Coke’s corporate structure and intricate financial dealings.

Rogers often refers to his strategic style as “divide and conquer” because it aims to isolate companies from investors, creditors, politicians, and consumers. In the most successful corporate campaigns, the target corporation’s relationship with the business world breaks down, as other companies, banks, and executives decide that the benefits of the business relationship are not worth the risk of being the target of a high-profile campaign. Eventually, the company, isolated and weak, caves in to the campaign’s demands in order to end the media blitz and restore its position in the business world.

“A corporation is really nothing more than a coalition of individual and institutional economic and political interests, some more vital and vulnerable than others, that can be challenged and attacked, divided and conquered,” Rogers said. “I know enough now to know exactly where the Achilles heel of Coca-Cola is. I’m so confident about where we’re going with this thing.”

That Achilles heel appears to be Coke’s relationship with SunTrust Bank, its main creditor. Many of Coca-Cola’s top shareholders own significant amounts of SunTrust stock, and their boards overlap—three current or former Coke CEOs sit on SunTrust’s board of directors and two current or former SunTrust CEOs sit on Coke’s board. “In almost 30 years of studying corporate structures, I have never seen a more intimate or incestuous relationship,” said Rogers.

Rogers plans to expose the relations between SunTrust and Coca-Cola, then use information on Coke’s human rights and environmental practices to drive SunTrust into a financial and public relations disaster. If the plan works, investors will lose confidence in SunTrust; key executives will resign rather than face negative media attention; and unions, progressive groups, and consumers will close their accounts. Given the deep ties between the two companies, whatever hurts SunTrust will hurt Coke. Backed into such a position, Coca-Cola would be forced to acknowledge and end its ties to paramilitaries in order to stabilize its main creditor and regain investor and consumer confidence.

The campaign faces an uphill battle. Coca-Cola has virtually unlimited resources to fight lawsuits and conduct its own media blitz. Also, Coca-Cola, like most major companies, now has years of experience fighting high-profile consumer campaigns. The beverage giant has a truly global reach, producing over 300 brands in more than 200 countries, with more than 70% of its income coming from outside the United States. If the campaign hopes to damage Coca-Cola financially, it will have to attract international support.

Despite these serious obstacles, Rogers is optimistic. “We’re going to move very quickly on this thing,” he said. “I think they’re going to find themselves involved in something that they’re going to find a total nightmare.” Terry Collingsworth, executive director of the ILRF, is also confident. “Ray’s like the classic pit bull,” he said. “Once he bites into you, he won’t let go. Ray’s not going to walk away from this until he’s won.”

The battle is already heating up, with activists in Latin America, Turkey, Ireland, and Australia leading anti-Coke campaigns with Stop Killer Coke materials. Student organizations like United Students Against Sweatshops are starting campaigns to ban Coke from campuses. University College Dublin, Ireland’s largest university, voted recently to remove all Coca-Cola products from the campus. Meanwhile, Bard College in New York has decided against renewing Coke’s contract with the school when it expires in May. At Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, students staged a “Coke dump,” spilling soda into the streets to call attention to the plight of Colombian union activists. Union involvement is also growing. United Auto Workers Local 22 in Detroit, recently ordered 4,000 “Coke Float” flyers, which explain the campaign. The union will hand them out to workers as they leave their plant.

In the meantime, violence against union activists in Colombia continues. On September 10, 2003, David Jose Carranza Calle, the 15-year-old son of Sinaltrainal’s national director, was kidnapped by paramilitaries. According to Sinaltrainal, four masked men forced the younger Carranza into a truck and tortured him, asking for the whereabouts of his father. At the same time, his father, Limberto Carranza, received a phone call from an unidentified individual who said, “Unionist son of a bitch, we are going to break you. And if you won’t break, we will attack your home.” The kidnappers freed Carranza Calle over three hours later. But unionists in Colombian bottling plants, including Coca-Cola facilities, are far from safe.


Factoid: the Nazis Invented Fanta Soda

From “Fanta” Wiki:

Fanta (pronounced [faːnta]) is a global brand of fruit-flavored carbonated soft drinks from the Coca-Cola Company. There are over 90 flavors worldwide. The drink debuted in Germany in 1941 and originally sold only in Europe.[1]


Fanta originated when it became illegal to import Coca-Cola into Germany during World War II due to a trade embargo.[2] To circumvent this, Max Keith, the man in charge of Coca-Cola Deutschland during the Second World War, decided to create a new product for the German market, using only ingredients available in Germany at the time,[2] including whey and pomace – the “leftovers of leftovers”, as Keith later recalled.[3] The name was the result of a brief brainstorming session, which started with Keith exhorting his team to “use their imagination” (“Fantasie” in German), to which one of his salesmen, Joe Knipp, immediately retorted “Fanta!”[3]


The original Fanta was a Nazi product. When Pearl Harbor ended the flow of Coca-Cola syrup to German bottlers, German Coca-Cola chief Max Keith—who sported a tiny Hitler-style mustache and celebrated the Führer’s 50th birthday at company conventions—formulated an alternative. He blended together an ever-changing combination of dregs, like leftovers from cheese production, the fibrous remains of apples that had been pressed for cider, and whatever surplus fruit he could acquire from Italy. He sweetened the soft drink with saccharin and named it Fanta, after the German word for fantasy or imagination. It sold well, especially once food became scarce and buyers began using Fanta as a soup base. When the international parent company reunited with its German branch after the war, it discontinued Fanta.

Ten years later, Coca-Cola faced a crisis. Pepsi had started introducing different beverage flavors in the 1950s, but other than the Fanta anomaly, Coke had only ever sold one product (in either 6.5-ounce glass bottles or from the fountain). To better compete, the company revived the Fanta name in 1955 and marketed the new orange recipe across Europe. It soon expanded Fanta to Africa, Asia, and Latin America and added many new flavors to the Fanta portfolio, but it never pushed the product enthusiastically in the United States.

Sugar Should Be Regulated As Toxin, Researchers Say

By Christopher Wanjek

A spoonful of sugar might make the medicine go down. But it also makes blood pressure and cholesterol go up, along with your risk for liver failure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Sugar and other sweeteners are, in fact, so toxic to the human body that they should be regulated as strictly as alcohol by governments worldwide, according to a commentary in the current issue of the journal Nature by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The researchers propose regulations such as taxing all foods and drinks that include added sugar, banning sales in or near schools and placing age limits on purchases.

Although the commentary might seem straight out of the Journal of Ideas That Will Never Fly, the researchers cite numerous studies and statistics to make their case that added sugar — or, more specifically, sucrose, an even mix of glucose and fructose found in high-fructose corn syrup and in table sugar made from sugar cane and sugar beets — has been as detrimental to society as alcohol and tobacco.

Sour words about sugar

The background is well-known: In the United States, more than two-thirds of the population is overweight, and half of them are obese. About 80 percent of those who are obese will have diabetes or metabolic disorders and will have shortened lives, according to the UCSF authors of the commentary, led by Robert Lustig. And about 75 percent of U.S. health-care dollars are spent on diet-related diseases, the authors said.

Worldwide, the obese now greatly outnumber the undernourished, according to the World Health Organization. Obesity is a public health problem in most countries. And chronic diseases related to diet such as heart diseases, diabetes and some cancers — for the first time in human history — kill more people than infectious diseases, according to the United Nations.

Less known, and still debated, is sugar’s role in the obesity and chronic disease pandemic. From an evolutionary perceptive, sugar in the form of fruit was available only a few months of the year, at harvest time, the UCSF researchers said. Similarly, honey was guarded by bees and therefore was a treat, not a dietary staple.

Today, added sugar, as opposed to natural sugars found in fruits, is often added in foods ranging from soup to soda. Americans consume on average more than 600 calories per day from added sugar, equivalent to a whopping 40 teaspoons. “Nature made sugar hard to get; man made it easy,” the researchers write.

Many researchers are seeing sugar as not just “empty calories,” but rather a chemical that becomes toxic in excess. At issue is the fact that glucose from complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, is safely metabolized by cells throughout the body, but the fructose element of sugar is metabolized primarily by the liver. This is where the trouble can begin — taxing the liver, causing fatty liver disease, and ultimately leading to insulin resistance, the underlying causes of obesity and diabetes.

Added sugar, more so than the fructose in fiber-rich fruit, hits the liver more directly and can cause more damage — in laboratory rodents, anyway. Some researchers, however, remained unconvinced of the evidence of sugar’s toxic effect on the human body at current consumption levels, as high as they are.

Economists to the rescue

Lustig, a medical doctor in UCSF’s Department of Pediatrics, compares added sugar to tobacco and alcohol (coincidentally made from sugar) in that it is addictive, toxic and has a negative impact on society, thus meeting established public health criteria for regulation. Lustig advocates a consumer tax on any product with added sugar.

Among Lustig’s more radical proposals are to ban the sale of sugary drinks to children under age 17 and to tighten zoning laws for the sale of sugary beverages and snacks around schools and in low-income areas plagued by obesity, analogous to alcoholism and alcohol regulation.

Economists, however, debate as to whether a consumer tax — such as a soda tax proposed in many U.S. states — is the most effective means of curbing sugar consumption. Economists at Iowa State University led by John Beghin suggest taxing the sweetener itself at the manufacturer level, not the end product containing sugar.

This concept, published last year in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, would give companies an incentive to add less sweetener to their products. After all, high-fructose corn syrup is ubiquitous in food in part because it is so cheap and serves as a convenient substitute for more high-quality ingredients, such as fresher vegetables in processed foods.

Some researchers argue that saturated fat, not sugar, is the root cause of obesity and chronic disease. Others argue that it is highly processed foods with simple carbohydrates. Still others argue that it is a lack of physical exercise. It could, of course, be a matter of all these issues.


Sugar as harmful as tobacco, alcohol, experts say

Sugar is so harmful that it should be controlled in the same way as tobacco and alcohol, according to a team of leading public health experts.

Three US scientists from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) maintain sugar is more than just “empty calories” that makes people fat.

They argue that high calorie, sweetened food is indirectly responsible for 35 million annual deaths worldwide due to lifestyle-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Professors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis call for restrictions and controls on sugar that mirror those on tobacco and alcohol.

The three set out their views in the science journal Nature.

They point out that, at the levels consumed in the West, sugar altered metabolism, raised blood pressure, disrupted hormone signalling and caused significant damage to the liver that was still not fully understood.

The health hazards were similar to the effects of drinking too much alcohol — which was, in any event, manufactured from the distillation of sugar.

Speaking about the comment article, Professor Lustig, from the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, said: “As long as the public thinks that sugar is just ’empty calories’, we have no chance in solving this.

“There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. But sugar is toxic beyond its calories.”

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled in the last 50 years, fuelling a global obesity epidemic.

The main culprit is said to be fructose, a sugar molecule that is commonly added to processed food in sweetening agents such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). There is increasing evidence that excess fructose has harmful effects on the body.

In their commentary, the experts propose adding taxes to processed foods that contain any form of added sugar.

These would include carbonated drinks, other sugar-sweetened beverages such as juice and chocolate milk, and sugared cereals.

Other strategies included controlling access with measures such as age limits for the purchase of sugary drinks, and tightening controls on vending machines and snack bars in schools and workplaces.

However, the scientists stressed that to achieve a societal shift away from high sugar consumption, the public had to be better informed about the emerging science behind sugar.

Professor Schmidt, from UCSF’s Philip R Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, said: “There is an enormous gap between what we know from science and what we practice in reality.

“In order to move the health needle, this issue needs to be recognised as a fundamental concern at the global level.”

She added: “We’re not talking prohibition. We’re not advocating a major imposition of the Government into people’s lives. We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose.

“What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”

Professor Brindis, director of the Philip R Lee Institute, said: “We recognise that there are cultural and celebratory aspects of sugar. Changing these patterns is very complicated.”

The experts concluded in their article: “Regulating sugar will not be easy — particularly in the ’emerging markets’ of developing countries where soft drinks are often cheaper than potable water or milk.

“We recognise that societal intervention to reduce the supply and demand for sugar faces an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby, and will require active engagement from all stakeholders.”


‘How can you take money from a corporation. . .doing that kind of thing to perfectly good and totally innocent people?’ Catholic leader rips Chiquita; Cincinnati banana giant responds to Enquirer probe

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed

Cincinnati Enquirer 3-May-1998

In response to revelations about Chiquita Brands International’s overseas business practices in Sunday’s Enquirer, a prominent Catholic bishop has called on Catholic institutions not to accept donations from Carl H. Lindner Jr. or Chiquita.

Chiquita, meanwhile, issued a statement Sunday defending itself “as a good corporate citizen notwithstanding the unfair and inaccurate assertions of the Enquirer.”

But Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, said the Enquirer’s findings reflect what he saw firsthand on Chiquita farms he visited in Honduras last year. A member of the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Social Justice Committee, Bishop Gumbleton is an internationally known spokesman and investigator for the Catholic Church on human rights and social justice issues. The Catholic Conference is the social policy arm of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On Sunday, Bishop Gumbleton called for Catholic leaders to reject donations from Chiquita and Mr. Lindner, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. He said such gifts involved “blood money earned off the backs of the poor peasants of Central America.”

The bishop made his comments after reading the Sunday Chiquita stories on the Enquirer Web site.

In the 18-page special section Sunday, the Enquirer described the findings of a yearlong investigation into the Cincinnati-based banana giant. Among those findings:

Chiquita secretly controls dozens of supposedly independent banana companies in Latin America. It uses elaborate business structures to hide its control, avoiding restrictions on land ownership and national security laws. The structures also are aimed at limiting unions on the farms.

Chiquita’s subsidiaries engage in pesticide practices that endanger the health of banana workers and nearby residents, despite an agreement with an environmental group to adhere to certain safety standards. Those practices include aerial pesticide spraying while workers are still in the fields.

Security guards of Chiquita subsidiaries and their joint-venture partners have used brute force to enforce their authority on plantations. The violence by these guards has resulted in the death and wounding of unarmed peasants, including children.

Chiquita is “an evil institution for exploiting the poor,” Bishop Gumbleton said. “I saw (people) living in a dismal situation. What I would ask the Catholic leaders of Cincinnati and elsewhere is ‘How can you take money from a corporation or . . . (a chairman) of a corporation who is doing that kind of thing to perfectly good and totally innocent people and depriving them of a chance to get a decent livelihood?’ ”

In October, Mr. Lindner and his family donated $1.5 million to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to provide computers for inner-city Catholic schools.

Efforts to reach Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk and archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco were unsuccessful Sunday.

Telephone calls to Mr. Lindner and Steven Warshaw, president and chief operating officer of Chiquita Brands International Inc., were not returned. Robert Olson, Chiquita’s general counsel, spoke with an Enquirer reporter but would not say whether the company would issue a statement in response to Bishop Gumbleton’s comments.

Bishop Gumbleton said the 2,000-mile distance that separates Chiquita’s banana farms and its Cincinnati headquarters is no excuse for allowing the problems in Latin America to continue. “It doesn’t take a big effort for Carl Lindner to go down there and just find out what’s going on at his plantations.

“I don’t believe that a person like Carl Lindner is the only corporate leader in this country doing this kind of thing,” he said. “But the evidence uncovered by (the Enquirer), and what I have personally observed, makes it clear that he and his company must make changes to protect the very lives of the people who made them so wealthy.”

Chiquita Brands statement

On Sunday, May 3, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a sensational and highly inaccurate story impugning the reputation and business practices of Chiquita Brands International. Chiquita is known globally as a leading international producer of wholesome and healthy foods and as a good corporate citizen – investing in local communities, building schools and improving the quality of life for tens of thousands. We are proud of the success we have had in providing benefits and wages in Latin America that far exceed those available from other jobs and protecting the environment in a manner that has earned praise from the most prominent independent environmental organizations.

Chiquita is proud of its work and denies the false implications of the Enquirer’s article.

The information contained in the Enquirer’s story was selectively edited, incomplete and presented out of context and portrays a false and highly inaccurate image of Chiquita. Chiquita and other independent sources made extraordinary efforts to provide facts and documents which demonstrate the true record. Unfortunately, the Enquirer ignored the hundreds of pages of documents detailing the facts regarding Chiquita’s sound business practices. Instead, the Enquirer has affiliated itself and worked in concert with persons having financial, political and economic motives to damage Chiquita.

Chiquita adheres to the highest standards of product quality and social responsibility, applying world-class standards regarding associate relations, product quality and environmental controls. Chiquita will continue to meet its obligations as a good corporate citizen notwithstanding the unfair and inaccurate assertions of the Enquirer.

On the Web The complete text of the Enquirer’s investigation into Chiquita Brands International Inc. can be accessed at the Enquirer’s Web site: – chiquita (Not available as of 10jul98)

(Copyright 1998)


Life on a banana plantation; Growing Chiquita bananas: pesticides and hard work

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed

Cincinnati Enquirer 3-May-1998

On farms from Mexico to Ecuador, Chiquita and its affiliates grow millions of bananas every year for consumers in North America and Europe. The fruit is grown and harvested in a labor-intensive process that involves an army of workers, lots of equipment, crop-dusting airplanes, foam cushions, string, bags, special cartons, refrigerated trucks and trains, and tons of pesticides.

While production methods vary slightly from plantation to plantation, the basic operations illustrated below remain the same. This illustration is a composite plantation, drawn from Enquirer reporters’ visits to Chiquita subsidiary plantations and Chiquita-affiliated farms in Honduras and Costa Rica, as well as interviews with plantation workers and environmental scientists.

1. Commercial banana plants grow from 15 to 30 feet in height and are grown in long rows on large irrigated plantations. Most bananas consumed in the United States are grown in the lowlands of Central and South America. The average banana plant produces fruit about every nine months. The stem usually grows to contain about 150 bananas. When the manager decides, the fruit is cut green from the plant and dropped carefully on the back of a worker carrying a cushion to stop any bruising of the fruit.

2. Herbicides: To kill off other plants growing around the bananas, workers apply herbicides. The chemicals are toxic and wash into the ground and ground water during rains.

3. Nematicides: To kill off nematodes, small worms that attack banana plants from the roots, workers cover the ground around the plants with nematicides. These chemicals are highly toxic and make an area extremely dangerous for 24 to 48 hours after application.

4. Banana plants do not have strong trunks, they can easily be knocked over in a tropical windstorm. To prevent ‘blowdowns,’ workers tie the plants down with string.

5. Aerial spraying is an integral part of pesticide application in commercial banana farming. The main purpose is to combat Black Sigatoka, an airborne fungus that can destroy a plantation’s crop. In areas that are infected with the fungus, including much of Central America, airplanes may spray fields more than 40 times a year.

The spray lands on the plants’ upper leaves, the ground, irrigation canals, streams and rivers and nearby homes, workers and residents, scientists told the Enquirer.

Workers on Chiquita subsidiary plantations and other farms producing Chiquita bananas told the Enquirer that they receive no warning when the planes come over and they often hide under banana leaves to escape the pesticide dust. Nearby villagers complain the aerial spraying often drifts into their yards, sending children running into the houses to escape rashes. Many worker villages are located close to banana plantations.

6. The water used in the in the packing plants to wash pesticides off the bananas comes from the irrigation canals and then is routed back out into the water supply. Chiquita has built berms in recent years on some plantations to limit pesticides from flowing directly into rivers. But many irrigation canals, laced throughout every plantation, remain directly exposed to pesticides.

7. Plastic bags imbedded with the powerful chemical chlorpyrifos protect the the growing fruit from insects throughout its entire gestation. In previous years,the bags were simply discarded after use, though the major banana companies have now started recycling programs.

8. At harvesting, the stem is placed on a large overhead cable system that runs throughout the plantation. Workers place foam cushions among the fruit to stop bruising. The fruit is then pushed along the cable toward the “Empacadora,” the packing plant.

9. In the packing plant, workers remove the cushions. Other workers then cut the stems into smaller bunches.

10. The bunchesare then put in a “pila de seleccion,” a selecting trough, where selectoras, usually women, choose the bananas and cut them further down to shipping size with small hooked knives.

11. Larger troughs called ‘pilas des leches,” milk troughs, wash off the pesticides applied in the fields as well as natural fluids from the banana plant.

12. New pesticides are applied to the bunches after they are placed on a conveyer belt. The new pesticides, either thiabendazole or imazalil, are applied to prevent “crown rot,” a fungus that attacks the extremities of the banana bunch. On some plantations, Chiquita has installed small plastic containment systems that save money on pesticide costs and reduce worker exposure to the pesticides. But most plantations do not have this system, according to Chiquita statements issued through its attorneys to the Enquirer.

13. Boxes of banana bunches, freshly applied with pesticides, are put on large skids for shipment. On all the plantations visited by the Enquirer, most workers viewed by reporters did not wear gloves when handling the pesticide-covered bananas.

14. Trucks or trains are brought to the plant and loaded with the skids. The bananas are taken to port, where the large refrigerated containers are lifted onto ships. The ships then sail to various destinations, usually in North America or Europe. About ten days to two weeks after being harvested, the bananas are on display and for sale at local groceries.

Pesticides in the banana ecosystem

The ecosytem of a banana plantation is extremely wet and hot. The soil is very loose, helping the banana plants grow but also making it easy for pesticides to spread throughout the system.

It often rains in these areas, flushing pesticides into the ground and water table. The banana industry’s answer to this dissipation has been to apply pesticides frequently.

Ways pesticides get into the environment:

Air: Airplanes drop toxic chemicals regularly from the air. Pesticides fall on the plants, but also on workers, the ground and irrigation canals and streams.

Ground: Workers apply pesticides to the ground around the plants. These chemicals seep into the ground with every rainfall.

Water: Pesticides also get into water that is used to wash bananas in the packing plants. That water then flows back into the irrigation canals.

Bags: Plastic bags with the insecicide chlorpyrifos cover all the banana bunches from their inception. The chemical leaks off the bags in rain storms and flows into the ground and water.

Black Sigatoka is a banana plant disease that plagues most areas where Chiquita bananas are produced. The airborne fungus eats away at the plant leaves, turning them black. The disease shrinks the size of the frui and makes it ripen too quickly to be shipped to market. Eventually, the disease kills the plant. Some researchers are now trying to find a Sigatoka resistant banana that will still appeal to consumers, but nothing has been discovered thus far. To date, the industry’s reaction to the problem has been to increase aerial spraying of powerful pesticides.

The roots of the banana

Humans have been cultivating bananas since almost the beginning of civilization. Varieties of the plant are referred to in ancient Chinese and Arabic manuscripts.

Believed by scientists to have developed in southeast Asia more than 4,000 years ago, the plant eventually spread to other parts of Asia and into Africa. The species’ scientific classification, Musaceae, comes from the Arabic word for the fruit, mu’uz. Spanish and Portuguese explorers are believed to have come into contact with the plant in their travels to West Africa, where they adopted a variation of a local term, banana. Spanish explorers brought bananas to the Americas in the 1500s.

Today hundreds of banana varieties thrive in almost every tropical region of the world. But more than 90 percent of the bananas found at grocery stores in the United States and Europe are one variety, the yellow Gran Cavendish. The banana is one of the most productive plants in the world. In the right climate and weather it produces year round, and for decades at a time.

The plant itself is actually an herb. What looks like a trunk of a banana “tree” is in fact densely packed leaves growing up from a base clump of roots. The plants that produce commercial Gran Cavendish bananas do not produce seeds for reproduction, and are ‘sexless’ perennials. Planted in rows on giant farms, they regenerate after each harvest. The plant grows a stalk, called in Latin America “la Madre” or the mother, which produces a purple stem with white flowers from its center. The stem transforms into a large ‘hand’ of as many as 150 bananas each. The “hand,” which eventually bends over from the weight of the fruit, can weigh up to 140 pounds.

The fruit is harvested before it is ripe, and cut into the bunches that are transported to grocery stands. Once the fruit is harvested, the stalk is cut and a little stalk , called “el hijo” or “offspring” in Spanish, sprouts from the same root to begin the process again. Bananas are comprised mostly of sugary carbohydrates, but it is also a source of vitamins A and C as well as potassium.

(Copyright 1998)


The Crimes of Chiquita

1. In 1984 the United Fruit Company (UFCO) was renamed Chiquita Brands International. While I will not delve too deeply into the transgressions of the UFCO, I will say that the country I was born and spent 18 years of my life in, Guatemala, owes much of the political turmoil in it’s modern history to the United Fruit Company. In 1954, democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz was ousted by a CIA-orchestrated coup that was put into motion by the political influence of the United Fruit Company. All of this is documented very well in the book Bitter Fruit.

2. In 1998, Chiquita’s systemic abuses were documented by an expose in the Cincinatti Enquirer, entitled “Chiquita Secrets Revealed”. The Cincinatti Enquirer was forced to run a dramatic retraction because Michael Gallagher obtained a lot of the information illegally by hacking into the company’s voice mail system, but none of the factual claims in the 18 page series have been disputed or proven wrong. The expose covers a variety of abuses including mistreating Central American workers, polluting the environment, allowing cocaine to be brought into the United States on it’s ships, bribing foreign officials, evading the laws of foriegn countries, and forcibly preventing it’s workers from unionizing.

3. In 2001, Chiquita was forced to pay a $100,000 penalty after the Securities and Exchange Commission found it guilty of bribing a foreign official in Colombia.

4. In 2007, Chiquita plead guilty to paying $1.7 million to the Auto-Defensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) which I have written about many times.


  • Chiquita secretly controls dozens of supposedly independent banana companies. It does so through elaborate business structures designed to avoid restrictions on land ownership and national security laws in Central American countries. The structures also are aimed at limiting unions on its farms.
  • Chiquita and its subsidiaries are engaged in pesticide practices that threaten the health of workers and nearby residents, despite an agreement with an environmental group to adhere to certain safety standards.
  • Despite that environmental agreement, Chiquita subsidiaries use pesticides in Central America that are not allowed for use in either the United States or Canada, or in one or more of the 15 countries in the European Union.
  • A worker on a Chiquita subsidiary farm died late last year after exposure to toxic chemicals in a banana field, according to a local coroner’s report.
  • Hundreds of people in a Costa Rican barrio have been exposed to a toxic chemical emitting from the factory of a Chiquita subsidiary.
    Employees of Chiquita and a subsidiary were involved in a bribery scheme in Colombia that has come to the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Two employees have been forced to resign.
  • Chiquita fruit-transport ships have been used to smuggle cocaine into Europe. Authorities seized more than a ton of cocaine (worth up to $33 million in its pure form) from seven Chiquita ships in 1997. Although the company was unaware and did not approve of the illegal shipments, problems were traced to lax security on its Colombian docks.
  • Security guards have used brute force to enforce their authority on plantations operated or controlled by Chiquita. In an internationally controversial case, Chiquita called in the Honduran military to enforce a court order to evict residents of a farm village; the village was bulldozed and villagers run out at gunpoint. On a palm plantation controlled by a Chiquita subsidiary in Honduras, a man was shot to death and another man injured by guards using an illegal automatic weapon. An agent of a competitor has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that armed men led by Chiquita officials tried to kidnap him in Honduras.
  • Chiquita Chairman and CEO Carl H. Lindner Jr., his family and associates made legal but controversial contributions to political figures at a time the company desperately sought U.S. backing in a trade dispute over banana tariffs in Europe.
  • In a statement issued through its attorneys, Chiquita said the company “has been an active and enthusiastic engine for a better way of life throughout the region (and) is a leader in preserving, enhancing and cleaning the environment through Central America.”


Junk food as ‘Addictive as Drugs’ – Why Junk Food is Addictive

“When researchers electronically stimulated the part of the brain that feels pleasure, they found that the rats on unlimited junk food needed more and more stimulation to register the same level of pleasure as the animals on healthier diets.”

Junk food is almost as addictive as heroin, scientists have found.

A diet of burgers, chips, sausages and cake will programme your brain into craving even more foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat, according to new research.

Over the years these junk foods can become a substitute for happiness and will lead bingers to become addicted.

Dr Paul Kenny, a neuroscientist, carried out the research which shows how dangerous high fat and high sugar foods can be to our health .

“You lose control. It’s the hallmark of addiction,” he said.

The researchers believe it is one of the first studies to suggest brains may react in the same way to junk food as they do to drugs.

“This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity and drug addiction have common neuro-biological foundations,” said Paul Johnson, Dr Kenny’s work colleague.

Dr Kenny, who began his research at Guy’s Hospital, London, but now works at Florida’s Scripps Research Institute, divided rats into three groups for his research, due to be published in teh US soon.

One got normal amounts of healthy food to eat. Another lot was given restricted amounts of junk food and the third group was given unlimited amounts of junk, including cheesecake, fatty meat products, and cheap sponge cakes and chocolate snacks.

There were no adverse effects on the first two groups, but the rats who ate as much junk food as they wanted quickly became very fat and started bingeing.

When researchers electronically stimulated the part of the brain that feels pleasure, they found that the rats on unlimited junk food needed more and more stimulation to register the same level of pleasure as the animals on healthier diets.

28 Oct 2009


“The right combination of tastes triggers a greater number of neurons, getting them to fire more. … The message to eat becomes stronger, motivating the eater to look for even more food. … “

Why junk food really is addictive

Ice cream and chocolate bars are addictive because the mix of ingredients in them activates our “bliss point”, according to Professor David Kessler, a leading scientist.

By Ben Leach
29 Jun 2009

Snacks, cereals and ready meals can trigger the brain in the same way as tobacco, according to the former head of America’s food standards watchdog.

Professor Kessler, ex-commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), claims that manufacturers have created combinations of fat, sugar and salt that are so tasty many people cannot stop eating them even when full.

Living near fast food restaurants ‘increases obesity risk’ He argues that manufacturers are seeking to trigger a “bliss point” when people eat certain products, leaving them hungry for more.

“It is time to stop blaming individuals for being overweight or obese,” he said. “The real problem is we have created a world where food is always available and where that food is designed to make you want to eat more of it. For millions of people, modern food is simply impossible to resist.”

While at the FDA, Prof Kessler was well known for his criticism of the tobacco industry, which he accused of manipulating cigarettes to make them even more addictive.

In a new book, The End of Overeating, he suggests precise combinations of fat, sugar, salt and texture have been used by foods manufacturers to make products “hyper-palatable”.

Heinz tomato ketchup and Starbucks white chocolate mocha Frappuccino are cited as examples of the thousands of modern foods that have been engineered to stimulate feelings of pleasure.

“The right combination of tastes triggers a greater number of neurons, getting them to fire more,” he said. “The message to eat becomes stronger, motivating the eater to look for even more food.”

“Many of us have what’s called a ‘bliss point’ – the point at which we get the greatest pleasure from sugar, fat or salt. As more sugar [and fat or salt] is added, food becomes more pleasurable until we reach the bliss point, after which it becomes too sweet and the pleasure drops off.”

Prof Kessler, who ran the FDA from 1990 to 1997 and is now professor of paediatrics, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, added that at the optimum point, food stimulates many people’s appetites instead of suppressing it.


World War II — brought to you by Nestlé’s candy

The Swiss didn’t just hang on to Holocaust victims’ bank accounts. They used them to bankroll Hitler’s war machine.


The next time you’re hungry for a Nestlé’s Crunch or a box of Quik, consider this: In 1933, the same year that Adolph Hitler rose to power in Germany, the food giant was helping to finance the creation of a Nazi Party in its native Switzerland. It was a political investment that paid off handsomely. During World War II, Nestlé won the contract to supply the entire Germany army with chocolate — a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

While much of the media’s attention continues to be focused on what Swiss banks did with Holocaust victims’ money, the supposedly neutral country’s complicity with the Nazi war effort ran much deeper. In effect, the land of the cuckoo clock essentially acted as Hitler’s banker, taking in all the gold that the Nazis looted from the treasuries of Europe and exchanging it for the hard currency that kept Germany’s war machine running.

As we now know, some of that gold was taken from the homes and teeth of Jewish victims whose relatives are still alive today. Jewish groups, backed by the United States, are demanding an accounting of the gold so that these relatives and a diminishing number of survivors can be compensated.

Also at issue is how Swiss banks handled the accounts of Jews who hid their money in Switzerland — they thought for safekeeping — as storm clouds gathered over Europe in the 1930s. For the past 50 years, relatives and a few survivors have tried to reclaim their assets, but their efforts have been stymied by Swiss banks. Some bank officials demanded official death certificates, as if Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen maintained such documents. In one instance, a bank was discovered shredding wartime records that likely contained the details of unclaimed Jewish accounts.

Until recently, Swiss banks claimed to have located dormant accounts worth only some $27 million. Now, after more than two years of entreaties by Jewish groups and the U.S. Congress, Swiss banks earlier this week finally published a list of more than 2,000 dormant accounts worth $42 million. But in many respects, the list raises even more questions than it answers. Why would it have taken so long for the banks to track down account holders, many of whose names can be found in Swiss and German phone books? And how, for example, did the name of the former head of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia wind up on the list? Or a former aide to Adolf Eichmann or a deputy commandant of a Nazi concentration camp?

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A Nice Cup of Coffee

[An article I wrote on Dec. 22, 2009]

If one looks up volumes written on the subject of coffee, most likely they will take the form of table books or cookbooks with very little instruction, aside from a few attractive pictures of the drink, and perhaps some rudimentary tours of its various flavors, coupled with only a very few frustrating teasers of tips on how to make it. It is difficult to find any detailed exploration of coffee. In addition, aside from books totally centered on the subject, even the best breakfast books contain no explanation of the flavors of various types of coffee, nor do they explain the exact difference between espresso and cappuccino, brewed coffee or French press, or what are the costs and benefits of a Turkish grind.

This is very odd, seeing as how not only has coffee been one of the foundations of global civilization and trade as we know it, but also given the fact that the method of making coffee is the center of many disputes.

In Europe and America it has only a few hundred years of history, contrasted with hundreds of thousands in Africa, and yet as a worldwide commodity coffee is on the level of cereal grains and crude oil. Most of the modern workforce cannot start the day unless they have a cup of coffee. Indonesian students rise in the wee hours to have breakfast consisting of boiled bananas and coffee even from the age of eight. The coffee industry currently employs millions. All this, and yet finding information about it is still a matter of trial and error. When looking through my head for the recipe for my perfect cup of coffee, I find many points which I have had to acquire myself over years of consumption.

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